Gospel Appeal

C. Restore the universal appeal of the gospel of God’s grace.

The worldwide power that is inherent in the gospel is that it is universally applicable to all cultures of people. One of the identities of religion is that many religions are culturally linked in some way. Even within a particular culture, the religion of the existing body of believers is often linked to the traditions of a particular generation of people within the society. Inherent in the gospel, on the other hand, is that it is never culturally linked. If we link the gospel to a particular generation of people, then it is no longer gospel. It has been turned into a religion, or as Paul described such, “another gospel” (Gl 1:6-9). When some Jews demanded obedience to the tradition of circumcision as a basis for salvation, they were preaching another gospel (At 15:1,2). If a religion is culturally linked, then it often fades away as the ways of the fathers passes away.

One of the characteristics of the Millennial Generation in the American religious scene is that this generation seeks to be unhinged from the traditions of the past. We would not say that this is something that is unique with the American culture in these times. In fact, in the general African tribal church, culture has historically identified each particular tribal group. To a great extent, this tribal identity has infiltrated many churches throughout the continent with local cultural norms. But a new and educated generation seeks to throw off the culture of the fathers, and in doing so, throw away the “cultural church.” The social media of today has accelerated this movement away from the ways of the past. Unfortunately, the past generation has linked their faith so tightly to the culture of the past, that the younger generation simply moves on from the existing identity of the local church. Any church that is culturally linked to the traditions of the fathers will not stand against those who can distinguish between traditions and Bible.

The beautiful nature of the gospel is that it is not culturally linked. Gospel links us to a “heavenly culture” where the Head is seated at the right hand of God. Unfortunately, those who are traditionally linked in their faith with the ways of the culture around them have not discovered this truth about the nature of the gospel. They may have discovered it, but when change is imminent, the reply is always, “that is not our culture.”

Those who struggle against the “change agents” have not discovered that the cultural traditions of the fathers should play a minor part in the implementation of the power of the gospel in the lives of every cultural group around the world. Therefore, if we would stem the tide of decline, then we must disengage the gospel from the traditions of the past in order to identify the purity of the simple gospel. We must be able to unlink gospel from culture. We have found that many who are against the “change agents,” have a difficult time in separating religious heritage and traditions from the pure gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

D. We must be willing to follow the incarnational gospel of the Son of God.

An illustration is in order here in reference to living the incarnational example of the Son of God. When Paul admonished, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus,” he was asking the Philippians to pause for a moment in order to consider the paradigm shift the Son of God made on our behalf. Formerly, and before the incarnation, the man Jesus was in the form of God. This meant that He was spirit (Jn 4:24). He was with God in spirit (Jn 1:1,2). But He gave up that form and environment and transitioned into the form of the flesh of man (Jn 1:14; Ph 2:6,7).

This was an incarnational transition out of the “culture” of heaven and into the culture of the Jews when He was born into the flesh in Bethlehem. When we speak of making all necessary cultural changes in order to accommodate our Savior who did the same for us, then we are living the incarnational mind of Christ. Those who are not willing to do this do not have the mind of Christ. They are not living the gospel incarnationally.

We must go further into this incarnational journey of the Son of God. We believe in the incarnation of God the Son into the flesh of man. There is no problem with this belief until we start allowing “this mind” to be in us in order that we live the example that He left us for us to follow. So Peter cautioned us with these words: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps” (1 Pt 2:21). We have found that Christians feel comfortable about applying the “suffering” of this statement only to the cross. The cross is indeed in the picture, but the suffering began long before the cross. It was the Son of God in spirit who was incarnate in the flesh of a person who could suffer from disease. He could suffer from a broken arm. He could suffer from cuts and bruises. As soon as Mary lifted the incarnate babe from the manger, that babe began living a life of suffering, which suffering was for us.

So we go into the suffering after the birth and before the cross. We would therefore ask, Into what skin did Jesus incarnate? Was the skin white, black, yellow, red, tan, or whatever we might witness in this present world? It was into this skin that the Son of God in spirit placed Himself. When the prophet said, “A body You have prepared for Me,” (Hb 10:5), then we wonder that the skin color of this incarnate body might be?

If one has been following the thoughts of this incarnational journey, then he or she should have by now concluded that there is no cause for racism based on skin color when living the incarnational example of Jesus. In fact, if there is any racism in the mind of a Christian, that “Christian” is not living the incarnational example of Jesus. Jesus was born a Jew, and certainly He suffered a great deal of racist remarks from the Gentile Romans. But He incarnationally lived without reacting to racist remarks or prejudice. He marched to the suffering of the cross for those who smeared Him with all sorts of racist remarks.

If we would live the incarnational gospel of the Son of God, therefore, we will love the skin we are in. We will be thankful for the hair under which we walk. We will neither portray racism nor prejudice toward others, neither will we allow the racism and prejudice of others to affect our gospel behavior. We live in a world of racism. If we react to any racism, then we will simply bounce from one racist comment to another. Ever hear of the statement, “The water simply runs off the back of a duck”?

Jesus was burn as a Jew into a Jewish culture. He was not a Gentile. Therefore, all His life He knew all the prejudice that the Gentile Romans had against Him as a Jew. But He still went to the cross for the Gentile Romans. The next time we belittle the culture of another people, or person, then we know that we still have problems in living the incarnational example of Jesus who suffered all things for all the cultures of the world. Any church, therefore, that is not willing to include all cultural groups, and any skin color that may come by, is not a church of the Christ who came into the skin and culture of men.

[Next in series: Jan. 17]

Gospel Restoration

A. We must restore the power of the gospel.

The following studies in the gospel will turn the tidal wave of decline of faith in the society of America, as well as in all those societies throughout the world where we would seek to build the body of Christ. We say this because much of the religion that has led to the decline of the American church, has through missions, been propagated throughout the world. For this reason, some “mission churches” that adopted the religion that was propagated out of America in the last two centuries are now in the same decline, if not already dead. Therefore, the following emphasis is gospel oriented. The gospel must be restored if we are going to preserve faith in this present world:

If the confidence of our faith is in our religious heritage, then it is based on man, and not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those churches that are fading away in the society of America are those groups who have often placed more faith in the traditional heritage of their religion than in the gospel of Christ. We appreciate the faithfulness of those who have kept showing up on Sunday for the past decades. But there is a real need for a paradigm shift from the same-old-same-old to something that touches the hearts of the people in a modern world. Keep in mind that heritage focuses on the head, but gospel focuses on the heart. If our struggles to maintain the “church” are focused on persevering our religious heritage, then we have almost guaranteed the demise of our heritage as upcoming generations change. It is only the gospel that permeates time.

Today among people of faith, there is a desire to restore faith in Christ alone, apart from any baggage of the traditional religion of the fathers. We see this as a positive move. However, we must understand that in this rebellion of the past, the future must be guided by the word of God, wherein we discover the gospel of God’s grace. If our faith is not so directed, then in a few generations from now we will end up where we are now, that is, in a religion that bases its authority and the heritage of the fathers, we being the fathers who passed down to our grand children another heritage, not the gospel.

B. We must restore in our behavior the inherent nature of the gospel of grace and peace.

The gospel is good news for the souls of despondent people. Since it is good news, then it is something that must be broadcast throughout villages, towns, cities, of every nation of the world. If we believe that people will on their own come to us in the buildings wherein we have housed our religion, then we have deceived ourselves. Satan works in every way possible to keep people “out of the church house.” He uses every tool to dissuade people from considering faith in God as an answer to the problems of life.

There is too much beer and liquor sold in the world in which people can drown their problems. And now, there is too much opioid remedies prescribed to give some relief to life. We might add that there is also too much money to provide a pseudo-happiness to those who are afraid to be idle. There are too many people who live after the ways of the world and can offer a party of like-minded despondent people in the same situation. In other words, Satan has every distraction possible to dissuade people from showing up at some assembly of religious people.

Gospel is not religion. The gospel of the incarnation, sacrificial love offering (the cross), hope in giving a final resurrection, empowering ascension, and coronation of King Jesus is a way of life for those who have believed and obeyed the gospel. Once we take the message of the gospel to the discouraged, then the tidal wave of people moving away from faith will change. When we stop “going to church” as a symbol of their faithfulness and start being church in our communities, then the community will have a daily opportunity to come into contact with the power of the gospel. It is the gospel behavior of Christians to “love their neighbors as themselves.” Communities need the example of the gospel light (Mt 5:16). People need the preserving leaven of our gospel-driven leaven (Mt 13:33).

[Next in series: Jan. 15]

Gospel – Intro. D

Unity that is based on a gospel moral:

The American society is probably more politically divided today than it has been at any time in history. We must remember, however, that it is politically divided because it is morally divided. Those who seek to retain some sort of faith in a morally and politically society expect a faith that produces unity among all believers and the establishment of moral norms that will produce such unity. For this reason, therefore, the old style of religious institutionalism that was inherently divisive no longer appeals to a generation of people who seek to enjoin on themselves some sense of unity in such a morally divided landscape. If the religious institutions to which one has contracted himself through membership does not sense this urge, or struggle on the part of the average citizen to find some moral stability, then we will eventually hear the door slam shut on religious groups in the years to come. But herein is the opportunity of those who preach the gospel that brings unity and a moral foundation for those of faith who cry for some sort of togetherness within a society that is being attacked by a new-liberalism that seeks to extract moral norms from society.

The present culture of America is focused on relationships. If religion cannot so focus individuals, then the people will move away from that which continues to keep them denominated from one another. This is not something in reference to the doctrines of each particular religious institution. When we speak of the Christian faith, the world is crying out for something that will bring a divided humanity together, not keep them separated from one another into fellowships of favorite doctrines. In this religious scenario, therefore, religious doctrines are often forsaken for the sake of unity. Nevertheless, we still see this as a tremendous opportunity to preach the gospel that brings people closer together. When gospel is preached, all those dividing religious rites and rituals that have a tendency to keep us apart from one another, are marginalized in our efforts to be drawn together on the foundation of a common moral foundation. In this case, rites, rituals and ceremonies that sustain religion are viewed as obstacles in our efforts to develop relationships that are based on common morals and goals.

However, we do not forget that the same scenario existed in Israel. As the populous forsook the one true and living God, the people did not become irreligious. On the contrary, they simply became religiously misguided in following after their many Baal (gods) that they had created after their own imagination. The word “Baal” in Hebrew is plural, not singular. The people simply became religious under whatever god (religion) they so chose. This is universalism in reference to faith. It was a universal Baal faith that was void of the word of God (See Hs 4:6). We see the same happening today as religious groups are more focused on relational unity that is based on any belief than the one gospel that must always be the foundation for unity.

This seems to be the reason behind the Holy Spirit inspiring the apostle Paul to inscribe the document of Romans. Paul was held up from traveling immediately to Rome. Therefore, he penned the letter of Romans to explain what he wanted to say personally to the disciples in Rome. He was aware that they were moving toward meritorious religion as the Galatians were turning from the gospel to another gospel (See Gl 1:6-9). In his first words of the letter, therefore, he explained his intentions for going to Rome, as well as what he would preach upon his arrival.

Paul said, “I often planned to come to you” (Rm 1:13). He then explained why he wanted to go to the disciples in Rome. He explained, “That I might have some fruit among you also” (Rm 1:13). This is fruit that would be produced by his preaching the gospel to the Christians in Rome. So he wrote, “So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] also who are at Rome” (Rm 1:15).

The gospel produces fruit in the lives of believers as it does in the lives of unbelievers. If we are to detour the apostasy of the church into being just another religion, then the church must be restored continually to the foundation of the gospel. This is not a reference to reminding ourselves about correct doctrinal points on a legal outline. It is about learning and living the gospel of the incarnational Son of God, His offering for our sins, His resurrection, ascension, coronation and present priesthood and reign as King of kings. These are motivational principles that keep us in the word of Christ. Studies in this gospel will produce fruit in our daily lives, as well as turn us from digressing back into religion.

[Next in series: Jan. 13]

Gospel – Intro. C

Going the way of Israel

We must look beyond the present situation of Christian faith in the American West and took into the future. If a great number of the present fathers and mothers are not showing up at the doors of any religious group across America, then their children will take America into a secular society that is almost void of faith. This is presently happening in our country of residence in South Africa. Shopping malls that were shut down on Sunday morning in the country over thirty years ago, are now crowded with parents shopping with their children and enjoying all the entertainment that is provided to distract people from any faith. Fathers and mothers, with children, are taking the societies in which they live into a faithless future.

Nevertheless, some faith will survive. But the faith that will survive this great demise will be a religiosity that is carved out of a self-oriented society whose constituents seek their own strictures in reference to religion, and not the Scriptures. Therefore, it is time to study diligently our Old Testaments in reference to where Israel went, and the reason for which the Israelites were removed as God’s people from the promised land. The principle that they would be blessed if they stayed close to God in the land, but cursed if they left God, should be of concern to everyone as we move into the future.

In view of the loss of religiosity in the American culture, some traditional churches have sought to meet the challenge with what we might consider spiritually sterile placebos. Some have simply changed their names to a “no name” brand of religion, thus seeking to disguise old traditional churches with new branding. Therefore, gone are those traditional names that have denominated and identified different faiths according to the heritage of the forefathers. But we see the “no name” branding of religious groups to simply be a rehash of religion in different clothing.

The name change has not stopped the accelerating decline of churches in America. The central fact is that religion has failed the American culture, as it did in Israel of old. Church (religion) as we knew it failed to meet the needs of an emerging culture of people who were not tied to the traditions of the fathers, and thus the traditions of any specific religion. But aside from traditional religion, we still affirm that the gospel does not fail to meet the inner most needs of the human being in any society. Gospel will always be relevant in every culture of the world at any time in history.

“No name” branding can never cloak the power of the gospel. If churches are really interested in stopping the disappearance of “church” in the American culture, then there are some things that must change. The American culture is moving the average American citizen away from faith, and specifically, any religion that is ushered in to preserve faith. But this is never the case in reference to the gospel. In the past history of America, religious institutionalism always moved people away from one another. This is in contrast to the gospel that always moves people closer together. And in a culture of young people, gospel fits right in the midst of a culture that craves relationships. However, in order for the gospel to produce its unifying effect, the people must sluff off religion that divides us.

In this new generation, people have finally decided that religious division is completely out of step with the nature of the God of love, which love was often hypocritically preached by the proponents of denominated religions. Denominationalism in religion is entirely contrary to the relational encounters that people seek to have with one another in a new society of relationships.

[Next in series: Jan. 11]

Gospel – Intro. B

Statistic do not reveal hope for “church”

We recently received a report of church growth statistics in reference to the spiritual situation in America. One of the common news subjects among all churches in America is that people are leaving the traditional church, or religion. This was what was expressed in the New Year’s Day song by John Lennon. Those who chose the song for the occasion wanted to say to the world that we must imagine a world in which there is no more religion, and in their interpretation, no more “church” or faith. The departure from churches is so common now that religious leaders of all churches are trying to figure out what is going wrong with Western civilization in reference to church attendance.

It seems that people are turning away from the traditional church, if not faith in general. So the statistics that we received on this matter are stunning. If you have access to the internet, google the following subject: “The decline of churches in America.” One of the statistics in reference to churches in America is that over 200 churches of all religious faiths in America are closing their doors every week. Certainly, this is something about which we should be greatly concerned. It is an indictment against the church of Western civilization, and specifically, it is a paradigm shift from what existed about a half century ago when America was known for being a world leader in faith. But as the eighty-million strong American Millennial Generation—this generation is only about six percent Christian in faith—moves into adulthood, it is calculated from studies in the past five years that the present number of church closures per week will accelerate.

The Pew Research team came up with what we consider the most telling statistics of all their surveys. They measured that 23% of those Americans who were raised as “Christians,” no longer identify themselves with Christianity. This is about a quarter of the present fathers and mothers who are now rearing their children in non-Christian homes. The next generation, therefore, will far exceed 23%. And then the grand children will take the American society into a truly nonreligious, secular society. The Pew Research report concluded that the “nones,” or those not affiliated with any “Christian” religion in America, is increasing in the population.

We must not view these figures with a total resignation that faith is dying out in Western civilizations. It is true that in the last decade about 32,000 churches closed their doors. However, this figure must be considered in view of the fact that there were also many new church beginnings during the same period of time. Also consider the fact that many small churches closed their doors in order to merge with larger churches in nearby cities. Nevertheless, the number of closures of individual assemblies has been far greater than the establishment of new churches. “Church closures” point to a closure of Christian faith in the America society. Such transitions happen over generations, not decades. One hundred years from now we will know the conclusion of this story.

But there is a clear and present danger for the survival of faith in the American West. Nevertheless, regardless of the demise of faith, there is a remnant that is fighting back. As X Generation sang the lyrics on New Year’s Eve, “imagine a world in which there is no religion,” at the same time in Atlanta, Georgia in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 65,000 Millennials and X-Generation young people gathered for worship, prayer and Bible reading. The organizers of the event proclaimed that 2020 will be the “Year of the Bible.” Louie Giglio, founder of Passion, said, “We’re not simply keepers of the light, but we are carriers of the light of Jesus to the world.”

There is hope for America. In 1949 it is estimated that there were four million “Christians” in the nation of China. Today, it is estimated that there is over seventy million, with this number increasing at an annual rate of seven percent. It is certain that Christian faith is declining at an alarming rate in America. However, it is not moving into extinction throughout the world, but simply moving to another nation. As China claims a greater part of the future in world economics and culture, it may be that China will be the last bastion of Christianity in this world.

[Next in series: Jan. 9]

Gospel – Intro. A

“A SERIOUSLY ILL SOCIETY”

In 1971 John Lennon wrote the song “Imagine.” It was later embraced by what Yoko Ono stated when Lennon completed the song, “This can be an anthem.” And indeed it was for those who acclaimed it to be the “anthem for atheism.” Leading up to the January 1, 2020 celebrations in New York City, the X Ambassadors singing group were asked to sing this song during the celebrations on New Year’s Eve. You can “imagine” our shock when the lead singer voiced the words in the lyrics of the song, “Imagine there’s . . . no religion, too.” A 2019 updated revision of the original lyrics reads, “Imagine there’s no heaven … It’s easy if you try, No hell below us.”

After much criticism of the song when it was initially published, Lennon tried to defend his original lyrics that they were not meant to be a “Communist Manifesto,” saying that he was not a communist. But before millions throughout the world on New Years’ Eve, X Ambassadors voiced the belief of millions in America that we must “imagine” a world in which there is no more religion. In some way, we would agree with this simply because it is religion that leads to a great deal of conflict throughout the world. But this is religion, not Christianity. When Lennon sought to defend the meaning of his original lyrics, this was what he had in mind. It was religion, not faith, that drove millions to military conflict and terrorism. It was religion that inspired individuals to strap on a suicide vest in order to blow up babies.

But in an overall perspective, Western civilization, specifically America, is leading the way to a new world order that is weak on faith. In a December 2, 2020 broadcast of Russia Today, Peter Levelle, the host, posed the statement for discussion, “Defending Christianity in America is no longer politically correct.” Mike Huckabee, the former governor of the state of Arkansas in the U.S.A., stated on a Fox News interview, “There is a spiritual war going on in the world.” In reference to the American society, he stated, “We are a seriously ill society.” And then he questioned, “What kind of culture kills over one million babes a year [through abortion], and then cries out about anti-Zionist attacks on Hanukkah in the house of a Jewish Rabbi?”

It is sometimes not encouraging to study those sociological statistics that deal with the faith of a society. It is not encouraging because we often have to face up to some facts in reference to the decline of faith. Nevertheless, it is necessary to make such studies in order to refocus our energies on what we are to be doing as disciples of Jesus. When we study the figures concerning faith in the Western civilization, we are not encouraged. This is particularly the case with an older generation that can look back over a half century and clearly see that it is not better today in reference to faith than it was back in our childhood.

However, as subjects of the King who reigns supreme over the universe, we know that all will turn out for the best according to His purpose for which we were created to reside on this small blue planet we call earth. We were created in order to populate heaven. And because we were, we conclude that no matter how bad things become spiritually on this earth, all things are working together for the consummation of all things at the appearing of King Jesus. Before that time, however, we must not forget that the state of faith during these years could become similar to what existed during the days of Noah. During those days Noah faithfully prepared the ark for the salvation of only a few survivors of faith. The spiritual state of the civilization throughout the world at that time was epitomized in one statement: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gn 6:5).

We are not there yet, at least in the majority of societies throughout the world. But in some quarters of the population of the world, the spiritual degradation of the society into “evil religion” has come to fruition. It is for this reason that we are always concerned for the societies of the world that have in the past been the source of faith for the world. In particular, this would be our concern for the Christian faith of Western civilizations from which came the spread of Christianity throughout the world. Therefore, bear with us as we take you on a journey of where we are going spiritually in Western civilization. We want to present those principles that will stem the tide of faithlessness. If you are stuck in a declining church situation, then we present some things that can turn around a dying church.

[Next in series: Jan. 7]

Gospel Evangelism

It is the business of Satan to do all that can be done in order to keep the lost destined for eternal destruction. This is a spiteful mission, but it is true. It seems that in these times he is doing a great job of extracting faith from the world in which we live. Are we headed toward the days of Noah? Are there indications that Satan is winning the spiritual battle that is presently raging around the world today? If so, then it is a time in which we must first, arm ourselves with the gospel, and second, we must engage the enemy at all costs. If you are aware of this raging spiritual war that is presently spreading around the world, then you need to read through this series of lectures of the Global Bible Class.
There is a dark cloud of unbelief that is circumnavigating the world. There are indications of this everywhere. But there is a beam of light that will dispel the darkness. Darkness exist only when there is no light. Therefore, we call on every lighthouse of the world to shine forth the gospel. Jesus started this business: While on earth, He said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). And now, He says to us, “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). We are His light because we live His gospel before the world. Join with us to preach the gospel to the world.
E-CLASS BEGINS JANUARY 5TH

“The Execution”

Two millennia ago there were two despondent men returning home on a long road out of Jerusalem after the Passover of A.D. 30. They were exhausted, bewildered, downcast and totally confused. Their joyous expectations of an independent national Israel free from Roman occupation had just be dashed. Their return home to inform their wives and family of the tragedy they had just experienced on a hill outside Jerusalem was not good news. They were thus surely discussing how they would break the bad news to their families.

Unexpectedly, another gentleman meandered up and joined them on the way. He entered into their discussions. The stranger asked, “What manner of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk?” (Lk 24:17). The two despondents were shocked at the question. It is interesting to note carefully what, Luke, the historian, recorded about the mental state of these two discouraged hopefuls: “And they stood still, looking sad” (Lk 24:17). We must not forget the historian’s explanation of the despondent mood of these two men, as well as all those who had placed their hopes in a Nazarene who had just been executed on a cross back in Jerusalem. To them, and the rest of the hopeful followers, there was no good news (gospel) in the execution of their hopeful leader whom they supposed would be the new crowned King of Israel.

So the party of three men continued on their way toward the small village of Emmaus. One of them, Cleopas, then questionably responded to the stranger who had joined the despondent party of two, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem and have not known the things that have come to pass there in these days?” (Lk 24:18).

There had been hundreds of thousands of Jewish visitors in Jerusalem for the annual Passover/Pentecost feast. And now these two, discouraged about the execution of their hopeful liberation leader, did not even wait around for the closing Pentecost feast that would be conducted on the fiftieth day after the execution on Passover. They simply headed on home to inform their families of the bad news.

Everyone in Jerusalem had either heard or witnessed the Roman execution of the would-be King of the Jews. For all those who accepted this Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of Israel, there was no good news (gospel) in the execution. The best hope that they could muster up was that He would become a martyr in the religious history of Israel.

To the two disillusioned disciples on the road to Emmaus, all their dreams had just been nailed to a cross. They confessed to the stranger who had joined them on the road that this Jesus of Nazareth “was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19). But then, they related to the stranger, the religious leaders “delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him” (Lk 24:20). There was no good news in this crucifixion of their would-be Messiah and King.

And then the two men made a statement that could have been made by every nationalistic Jew who became a disciple of this crucified King: “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). Their hopes were all nationalistic. Their hoped for “redemption” was all about being delivered from Roman occupation. As all those dispersed disciples of the day who were on their own way home, there was no gospel message in the execution of the hopeful King of national Israel. Their hopes of being nationalistically redeemed from foreign occupation in order to enjoy the glories of a kingdom as those back in the days of David and Solomon were all crushed. There was no inherent good news at all about the execution.

These two sad disciples were only two examples of thousands of nationalistic Jews who had put their hopes in Jesus of Nazareth to be the messianic king. They hoped that it would be Jesus who would deliver to Israel their lost independence as a glorious nation. To many of them, Jesus was at least a good friend who worked many mighty works, taught many good things, and gave hope to a Roman-oppressed society of Jews throughout the Roman Empire.

Everyone had put their hopes in this Deliverer, this Messiah who would restore Israel to be free as in her former days of glory when King David and King Solomon led the farming communities of Israel to be a noted united nation among the nations of the world. Israel was great back in those days. And then, inspired by the leadership of this Jesus, they would all “Make Israel Great Again!” But their hopes were all dashed to the ground as each drop of blood drained from the nail-pierced hands of their would-be king. There was no known gospel in that cross.

But this was not the end of the story!

[Wait for the forthcoming book to complete the story.]

Strength & Comfort

GOD COMFORTS THROUGH HIS WORD:

In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Paul concluded a section of revelation concerning the final coming of Jesus by stating, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Paul had just revealed that the dead in Christ had not perished. They were alive in the spirit and would come with Jesus at the time of His final coming. We thus have Paul’s written revelation of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 concerning what will happen when Jesus comes again. This record has come to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, exhorts us to comfort one another with this inspired record of the final event of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. It is the responsibility of all disciples to talk among themselves concerning the gospel of Jesus’ coming, for in such discussions there is comfort.

GOD COMFORTS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS:

In 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17 Paul wrote,

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”

We do not know how God comforts in the way Paul here reveals. Paul mentioned throughout his communication to the Thessalonians how God comforts in an indirect manner. However, in this statement Paul seems to indicate that in some way God “comforts our hearts” in a direct way. This comforting does not refer to our salvation. It affects our mental attitudes in times of trouble or conflict.

God has given us “everlasting comfort” in the sense that we know that our salvation is secure because of His grace. However, He also comforts our hearts in times of struggle in ways that we do not understand. We simply accept the fact that He does because He has said so in His word. The fact that He says He comforts us is enough to know that there is comfort from Him upon our request.

[End of series: MERRY CHRISTMAS!]

Let's talk Bible!